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Local

DeKalb County grand jury declines to indict officer in controversial August arrest

Grand jury declines to indict after controversial August arrest

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County grand jury on Friday declined to bring charges against a DeKalb police officer involved in a controversial arrest in August during which the officer wrapped his arm around the neck of an Aurora man as the man was wrestled to the ground and shocked with a Taser.

However, an internal review to determine whether the officer violated any DeKalb Police Department policies is being completed in partnership with the Illinois State Police, according to a news release from the police department. The release said the city respects the grand jury’s decision.

Interim DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo said Friday that the police sergeant has been on desk duty since August, pending the investigation. Petragallo said he could not comment further.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato’s office on Friday presented the case to a grand jury to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against the officer involved. After reviewing the evidence, the grand jury declined to return an indictment.

Amato’s office took the Aug. 24 arrest under review after an investigation by the Illinois State Police. The arrest gained national media attention after cellphone video footage of Aurora man Elonte McDowell showed a DeKalb police sergeant wrapping his arm around McDowell’s neck. A DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy then fired a Taser at McDowell while he was on the ground.

The DeKalb police sergeant was reassigned to desk duty after the arrest.

“Our office has a duty to review all allegations of unlawful activity, including allegations against police officers,” Amato said in the release. “We take this responsibility seriously as part of our goal of fair and equal justice for all, and our belief that no one is above the law.”

According to Friday’s city of DeKalb news release, when the internal review is complete, department staff will review its contents and determine whether disciplinary consequences are necessary.

McDowell’s Chicago-based lawyer, Antonio Jeffrey, said Friday that he would not provide comment on the grand jury announcement until he receives the findings from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney and the Illinois State Police. He said he has not had recent contact with either.

Jeffrey has said video footage of the arrest shows McDowell “cooperating the entire time.” When asked if he still plans to file a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of his client against the city of DeKalb, Jeffrey said yes.

“That hasn’t changed,” Jeffrey said.

The arrest has been the subject of sometimes heated community discourse of the past few months.

Friday’s news release said city staff have over the past few months engaged in a number of “very positive, constructive,” conversations with members of the community, including those from Northern Illinois University and several community leaders.

On Nov. 18, DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith responded to a rally during which NIU students and faculty, along with community members, marched to the DeKalb Police Department to hand Petragallo a list of demands for improving community policing relations in the city.

DeKalb police officials have said they were made aware of McDowell after receiving a tip on the social media platform Snapchat, where McDowell posted videos of himself advertising marijuana.

The tip alleged McDowell was driving a tan Chevrolet Malibu to DeKalb “with a load of drugs,” according to DeKalb County court records.

After the arrest, Petragallo and DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott agreed to open an outside investigation through the Illinois State Police to determine whether the use of force was warranted. The report has not yet been made public.

McDowell was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, criminal trespass to property and resisting a police officer.

If convicted of the most serious charge of unlawful possession with intent to deliver, McDowell could face up to five years in prison.

He is due in court Jan. 13 for a status hearing.

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